The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a 1950s and 60s sitcom that followed the lives of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson along with their two sons David and Ricky. They were an ideal American family with an apron wearing, domestic mother, a wise and kind father, and two strapping young boys dealing with the troubles of high school. The show ran from 1952 to 1966 on ABC for 435 episodes. Ozzie and Harriet began as a radio show in 1944 with the couple playing themselves and actors representing their sons. It was not until 1949 that their actual sons joined their parents for the show, which transitioned onto television in 1952 .
The show was unique compared to many sitcoms and television shows of the day for many reasons including its extensive run time, but mainly because the main cast was a real family. Ozzie and Harriet met when she became the lead singer for his dance band in 1932 and they married in 1935 . When they began their radio show, it marked an important milestone in their carriers being integrated into one. Bringing their entire family onto the show as a unit allowed for America to watch their family dynamic as the boys grew up over the 14 seasons. It is considered by many as the first American “reality” television sitcom because of the cast consisting of a legitimate family.
This particular episode centers on a dance for young girls that Harriet’s Women’s Club is planning. She expresses her concern in being unable to find boys to attend the dance with the young girls as all of the boys are vehemently against dancing, one going as far as to call Harriet impersonating a doctor to notify her that he cannot attend the dance because of health reasons. The episode also highlights Ozzie’s connection to a young boys’ club, the Tigers, and he and Harriet agree that he should try to convince the Tigers to attend Harriet’s dance. In the end, Ozzie manages to get the boys to show up and dance with the girls, but it is revealed that he bribed them with baseball equipment under the ruse prepaying his Tiger Club dues for the next 157 years .
The show is lighthearted and comedic, but illustrates many aspects of the societal norms of the day. The entire episode centers of themes of the differences in men and women and boys and girls. It opens with Ozzie and one of his sons discussing Harriet’s whereabouts. The son is eating a cookie, to which Ozzie says he’ll spoil his dinner and then asks where Harriet is. He responds that Harriet is at a Women’s Club meeting and because of that, the cookie is dinner. Although a laugh track plays and this is meant as a joke, it illustrates that the woman of the house is expected to make dinner and portrays the males to be helpless in the kitchen and forced to scrounge for cookies for dinner instead of cooking for themselves. They also continually make assumptions about the children based on their gender. For example, they state that the young girls will want to attend a dance because they enjoy playing dress up, but the boys would not want to attend the dance because they would rather play baseball or ride their bikes.
Ozzie and Harriet is also a sponsored show, showing an advertisement directly after the opening theme. They are sponsored by the American Dairy Association, which multiple advertisements for milk play throughout the show. The advertisements have two common themes: drink milk because it tastes good and drink milk because it is healthy. The two advertisements both portray women who are dieting and eating “low-calorie” meals. These women are given milk and told that it is healthy and promotes “vitality,” which is a vague way for the advertisers to market milk as a health food without actually stating real health benefits . These advertisements are clearly targeted at women, especially those looking to watch their weight and stay healthy. This brings to question whether the target audience is the entire American family or merely women who strive to keep an ideal figure while also creating an ideal family. In a sense, this targeting of women in advertisements by the dairy industry is understandable because, even if the show’s target audience is the American entire family, the women and mothers are the ones doing the grocery shopping so marketing directly to them is the most efficient way to promote their product.
The show also opens and closes with a quaint scene of the family sitting around the dinner table as Harriet tells them all to remember to drink three full glasses of whole-milk a day to stay healthy and the entire family sips from their glasses. The dairy industry’s sponsorship manages to almost fly under the viewer’s radar as it is integrated into the show in a way that paints it as a healthy aspect of a regular American family.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet paints the picture of an ideal American family in a unique way by using an actually American family. The show is one of the longest running sitcoms and it allowed viewers to get to know the family as they grew. It is also a reflection of the 1950s and 60s culture in their depictions of gender-norms and gives a valuable look into the time period and the family dynamic of the era.
November 21, 2015 Subject:
When you appreciate children...
The obvious love and appreciation for children that Ozzie, in real life has, shows in the episodes that involve these darling kids.